Legislative & Budget Update: ATP Bill Moves Forward, Budget Deal on Transportation & Cap-and-Trade Pushed Back

A lot has happened since our last update just a month ago, and today the legislature left for a monthlong recess. Our most important bill this session has been AB 2796, which would create set-asides for non-infrastructure and planning within the ATP. The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee 10-0 this Tuesday and now goes on suspense again. It will be heard in August by the Senate Appropriations Committee and then hopefully go to the Senate floor and on to the Governor. A several important amendments were made, however. First, the overall set-aside was decreased from 15% to 10%, and the language now reads that at least 5% must go to planning. So, non-infrastructure would be guaranteed at least 5% of ATP funding instead of 10% (and projects that are combined with infrastructure can only count the portion that is non-infrastructure in this set-aside). Second, the bill would go into effect for Cycle 4 so it would not affect the current Cycle 3, even though the bill would be passed before those awards are given out (since the application window closed on June 15, this is meant to ensure fairness for those already submitted). Third, the bill now includes language that would allow grantees to start ATP projects early with local funds and be reimbursed by Caltrans with the ATP funds at a later date. This is important for many local projects that agencies want to expedite before receipt of funding, which may be 2-3 years down the line the way the current ATP Cycles are being programmed (for instance, Cycle 3 will be awarded later this year but no funding will be allocated until 2019).

Another important bill passed out of two Senate committees (Transportation and Environmental Quality) this week. AB 2222, which would create a statewide program providing free or discounted transit passes to K-12 and community college students, was stripped of its funding and reference to the cap-and-trade program as a potential funding source, so while it is still alive, it needs a funding source in order to live on past the Senate Appropriations Committee. But major kudos to our partners at TransForm and Move LA for pushing this bill forward!

On the budget side, a budget deal was stuck this month but it did not include anything for transportation, nor any allocations from cap-and-trade. If you’ve been reading the news lately, you know that the cap-and-trade program is receiving a lot of attention for the lack of interest in the sale of May’s auction proceeds, as well as a pending lawsuit against the program and uncertainty that AB 32, which created the program, will be extended past 2020. These issues are expected to be resolved in a trailer bill in August, though the uncertainty will remain past that. We are watching closely to see what kind of funding active transportation will get from the budget and cap-and-trade, and working with partners to broader transportation reform, social equity and environmental justice considerations are reflected in the spending plans proposed by the state.

We’ll have another legislative update in late August, once the session wraps up and the budget for transportation and cap-and-trade becomes clearer.

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